With some items at
Vending machines aren't just for soda, chips and candy bars in the break room anymore. Now sophisticated models with touch screens and high-definition video offer instant gratification for more expensive treats — iPods and Garmin GPS systems, T-shirts, even pacifiers and baby formula.
"They are a value-added service," said
These upscale product dispensers are popping up all over — department and specialty stores, airports, subways, even grocery stores. Retailers save on overhead since the machines fit into small spaces and don't have to be manned by an hourly employee.
The machines, which cost thousands of dollars, are now a small part of the industry, generating about
With just a swipe of your credit card you can purchase products such as a
"E-Spots have been received very well by our customers," said
A satisfactory experience? "If you know what you want, maybe," Furlong said. "I would want to be able to touch the product first and talk to a clerk about it."
Ng agreed: "It's kind of impersonal."
But sometimes consumers don't have time for the personal touch.
That's where items like those in the Baby Station Vend could come in handy. Innovative Vending Solutions in
"They're something new and still at that ground-floor phase," said
Sephora has put its cosmetics and body products in several airport vending machines.
Best Buy Express, a vending machine kiosk that
stocks cell phones and computer accessories, digital cameras,
headphones and travel adapters, among other gadgets, was named one of
five "Hot Retailers" at the
Coca-Cola has parked its interactive machines that allow consumers to purchase about 100 of its drink brands, including Diet Coke, Fanta and Minute Maid, in some upscale shopping malls. They feature Samsung 46-inch LCD touch screen, motion graphics and high-definition video.
Still, many consumers want one-on-one time with a sales clerk rather than the self-service route. The machines also have to be accessible but also in a secure place so someone might not be tempted to drive off with the whole thing like they occasionally attempt with ATM machines.
Items with expiration dates — batteries, food, publications — have to be maintained regularly, and the machines need to be well-stocked for visual appeal. Customers also need an option if the product isn't vended.
"If you lose a dollar, it's not a big deal. If you lose
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